The Aggie-Eagle football rivalry is headed back to the Queen City.
North Carolina A&T State University Aggies and North Carolina Central University Eagles will be the featured matchup for the 2022 Duke’s Mayo Classic at Bank of America Stadium, the Charlotte Sports Foundation announced Tuesday.
As part of a two-game series, the teams will return to play in Charlotte in 2027.
“That’s a storied rivalry. We’re just pleased that we’re able to attract an HBCU game to the Duke’s Mayo Classic,” said Danny Morrison, executive director at Charlotte Sports Foundation.
N.C. A&T and N.C. Central will be the first Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) teams to play in the Duke’s Mayo Classic. Often, the contest is between schools in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) and Southeastern Conference (SEC) during the opening weekend of college football season. NCCU of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) will be the home team in 2022 and alternate with N.C. A&T of the Big South Conference as home team in 2027.
With schools separated by roughly 50 miles, the Aggies and the Eagles first met on the gridiron in 1924. From 1994 through 2005, the teams faced each other in the official Aggie-Eagle Classic at the Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh. Intensity of the rivalry has lived on with fans even though the game no longer carries the official title.
Charlotte has served as a neutral site twice before, according to the schools’ athletic departments, with games played at Memorial Stadium in 1990 and 2008. The Aggies lead the series 52–34–5.
“We are looking forward to taking one of college football’s great rivalries and moving it to the Queen City of Charlotte,” said Earl Hilton III, N.C. A&T director of athletics.
“This will be a fantastic experience for our student-athletes, students, university community and fans,” said NCCU Director of Athletics Ingrid Wicker McCree. “We have a solid alumni and fan base in the Greater Charlotte area, and we are excited about bringing this game to their backyard.”
Both schools’ strong alumni bases played a role in the decision to invite the teams to participate, says Morrison.
Bringing the matchup to the Queen City would mean the return of a high-profile event showcasing HBCU sports and culture. That distinction previously belonged to the CIAA basketball tournament, which ended a 15-year run in Charlotte in 2020.
“I’m not sure there’s a whole lot that can replace the CIAA [basketball tournament in Charlotte], but certainly the football matchup between A&T and Central comes a very close second,” said HBCU alumnus and Charlotte City Council member Malcolm Graham.
Graham said the game could have the same type of relevance as the Bayou Classic in New Orleans or the Circle City Classic in Indianapolis.
Charlotte Sports Foundation is partnering with the 100 Black Men of Greater Charlotte and the Leon Frank Agency on ancillary events and business development surrounding the Aggie-Eagle games.
“Supporting HBCU games are pivotal to the future success and longevity of these historic and revered institutions,” said Johnathan Hill, vice president of public relations and communications for the 100 Black Men of Greater Charlotte.
Back at full capacity
The foundation’s announcement comes after Tepper Sports & Entertainment president Tom Glick said Monday that the stadium will operate at full capacity beginning this summer.
That means fans will be able to fill the stands for the 2021 Duke’s Mayo Classic. The two rivalry games this year will include East Carolina vs. Appalachian State on Sept. 2 and Clemson vs. Georgia on Sept. 4.
With Gov. Roy Cooper recently lifting most Covid-related restrictions, stadium visitors won’t be required to wear masks or get their temperatures checked. Additionally, there will not be separate sections for vaccinated and unvaccinated fans.
Sporting events were widely canceled in 2020 to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Last year’s Duke’s Mayo Classic — Wake Forest vs. Notre Dame — was canceled after being postponed twice. The game was originally postponed after several Notre Dame players tested positive for Covid-19.
The organization did host the Duke’s Mayo Bowl in December at Bank of America Stadium without fans, however, featuring Wake Forest and Wisconsin.
“A very challenging year for everybody,” Morrison said. “We have to just count our blessings that we were able to have the bowl game.”